Recycling: The challenge and the opportunity for a Seed stage VC

My recent post gave rise to a host of questions around the issue of recycling. What does it mean? How do you do it? And what are the implications for venture investors? I attempted to respond in a Tweetstorm, but recycling is a complicated issue that warrants a more thorough discussion. When Limited Partners (LPs) invest in a venture fund, they agree to pay an annual Management Fee on committed capital, usually on a declining scale over a 10 year period. In total, these fees amount to around 20% of an investors’ commitment, which implies that LPs only get to put 80% of their investment dollars to work because of management fees. This makes most LPs pretty unhappy - and it should. LPs generally expect to have 100% of their investment working for them, and best practice is to invest up to around 120% of committed capital when possible. Enter Continue reading "Recycling: The challenge and the opportunity for a Seed stage VC"

Recycling: The challenge and the opportunity for a Seed stage VC

My recent post gave rise to a host of questions around the issue of recycling. What does it mean? How do you do it? And what are the implications for venture investors? I attempted to respond in a Tweetstorm, but recycling is a complicated issue that warrants a more thorough discussion.

When Limited Partners (LPs) invest in a venture fund, they agree to pay an annual Management Fee on committed capital, usually on a declining scale over a 10 year period. In total, these fees amount to around 20% of an investors’ commitment, which implies that LPs only get to put 80% of their investment dollars to work because of management fees. This makes most LPs pretty unhappy - and it should. LPs generally expect to have 100% of their investment working for them, and best practice is to invest up to around 120% of committed capital when possible. Enter Continue reading "Recycling: The challenge and the opportunity for a Seed stage VC"

The TTD Investment and the IA Ventures Model

A Little History IA Ventures began life a little less than seven years ago, just as the world was coming out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The term “Micro VC” had yet to be coined. “Big Data” was still somewhat mysterious and edgy to those outside Wall Street, Government and Defense. Unicorns were mythical animals that pranced around meadows and were signs of good luck. And there certainly were no discussions of colonizing Mars (!). Upon reflection, 2009 seems almost a generation ago, but I guess that’s what happens when life, fueled by stunning advances in technology, seems to move at warp speed. But with all of these changes, a few basic principles still remain. The greatest venture funds - and firms - in history started small. They started investing very early in a company’s life, owned a lot and continued investing over time. In Continue reading "The TTD Investment and the IA Ventures Model"

The TTD Investment and the IA Ventures Model

A Little History

IA Ventures began life a little less than seven years ago, just as the world was coming out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The term “Micro VC” had yet to be coined. “Big Data” was still somewhat mysterious and edgy to those outside Wall Street, Government and Defense. Unicorns were mythical animals that pranced around meadows and were signs of good luck. And there certainly were no discussions of colonizing Mars (!). Upon reflection, 2009 seems almost a generation ago, but I guess that’s what happens when life, fueled by stunning advances in technology, seems to move at warp speed. But with all of these changes, a few basic principles still remain. The greatest venture funds - and firms - in history started small. They started investing very early in a company’s life, owned a lot and continued investing over time. In Continue reading "The TTD Investment and the IA Ventures Model"

Blackberry Is The VC Device Of Choice

2007 was only 8 years ago. Back then, you could see VCs everywhere tapping away on the Blackberry keyboards. If you don’t believe me, I have video evidence of it from Fred Wilson, Bijan Sabet, Roger Ehrenberg, and Howard Lindzon.

If you, like me, have been grinding along on email and phone calls all day and need a back to the future type of laugh, I think this will do it for you.

The post Blackberry Is The VC Device Of Choice appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

Welcoming John to IA

Brad, Jesse and I are happy to announce that our friend and colleague, John Hadl, is joining IA Ventures as Venture Partner, effective immediately. We have personally gotten to know John over the past four years due to our shared investment in PlaceIQ: IA Ventures led the Seed round and John, on behalf of USVP, led the Series A. John impressed us from the outset with his deep domain experience, tireless work on behalf of the founders and insightful perspectives in Board discussions. Further, his open and transparent style strongly resonated with us as candor and collaboration are two qualities we value highly. From our relationship formed through PlaceIQ our interactions continued to expand. As John has spent time with us it became clear that our networks, experiences and styles, though different, are highly complementary.

In addition to being a strong cultural fit, John has an impressive track record both Continue reading "Welcoming John to IA"

Welcoming John to IA

Brad, Jesse and I are happy to announce that our friend and colleague, John Hadl, is joining IA Ventures as Venture Partner, effective immediately. We have personally gotten to know John over the past four years due to our shared investment in PlaceIQ: IA Ventures led the Seed round and John, on behalf of USVP, led the Series A. John impressed us from the outset with his deep domain experience, tireless work on behalf of the founders and insightful perspectives in Board discussions. Further, his open and transparent style strongly resonated with us as candor and collaboration are two qualities we value highly. From our relationship formed through PlaceIQ our interactions continued to expand. As John has spent time with us it became clear that our networks, experiences and styles, though different, are highly complementary.

In addition to being a strong cultural fit, John has an impressive track record both as an angel investor and as a VC. John was an angel investor in and an advisor to both AdMob (Google) and Quattro Wireless (Apple), as well as an angel in BlueKai (Oracle) and Whisper, among many others. John also served on the Board of JumpTap until its sale to Millennial Media. His investments while at USVP include GoPro (IPO), Quantifind, Swoop and ZEFR. John has a knack for identifying the right founders to execute against a particular mission, and actively supporting them in their quest. His track record and reputation as a true partner to entrepreneurs is tangible evidence of his skill and his value.

We are excited about John’s contributions to the team and all that we can learn from him. Hopefully he extracts the same value and goodness from us. We look forward to welcoming John into the IA Ventures family and are confident he will help us better serve our most important constituency - our founders.

Crowdfunding for start-ups: A durable trend or a bull market phenomenon?

Angel investing is red hot as is the concept of crowdfunding start up investment. Part of this phenomenon has been driven by the emergence of AngelList, the brainchild of Naval Ravikant. What started out as a way for a curated set of angels to invest in startups posting on the AngelList site has expanded to include the notion of Syndicates, investor groups headed by prominent angels who deploy capital pledged by themselves and others in a manner akin to a GP/LP construct. Syndicates have been thought by some to be directly competitive with venture capitalists, initially Micro VCs but then perhaps larger venture firms down the line. While Naval has consistently said that this isn’t his intention, it hasn’t stopped others from speculating about the end game for Syndicates.

A recent article in Fortune Magazine got me thinking about the compare/contrast between professionally-led angel syndicates (such as those on AngelList) and seed stage venture firms such as IA Ventures.

While we invest in partnership with angels in virtually every seed stage company we work with, we are generally the largest investor and lead the round. We also frequently lead seed-extension rounds to support angel and Friends-and-Family financed companies, which need extra runway to hit key operating metrics and business milestones that will enable them to raise strong Series A rounds. This is the bread-and-butter of how we generally initiate our relationship with founders and their companies. When we invest in a company, we reserve multiples of our initial invested capital for follow on investment. In our experience, these reserve multiples can end up being 3-10x of our initial investment over 3-4 rounds of financing, before the expected cash-on-cash return of the later rounds fail to meet our growth criteria (as we are constantly asking ourselves: “Is the probability-weighted return of this investment greater than or less than investing in a new seed stage company?”).

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 10+ years as a seed stage investor, it’s that plans seldom unfold as expected. This is why: (a) we seek to finance companies adequately from the outset in order to give them a chance to prove or disprove their early hypotheses; and (b) reserve significant additional funds should they be executing well but need more time to hit key Series A metrics and milestones, or the macroeconomic environment becomes hostile and external fundraising is a poor or non-existent option. Having the resources available to support companies during hard times can be the difference Continue reading "Crowdfunding for start-ups: A durable trend or a bull market phenomenon?"

Crowdfunding for start-ups: A durable trend or a bull market phenomenon?

Angel investing is red hot as is the concept of crowdfunding start up investment. Part of this phenomenon has been driven by the emergence of AngelList, the brainchild of Naval Ravikant. What started out as a way for a curated set of angels to invest in startups posting on the AngelList site has expanded to include the notion of Syndicates, investor groups headed by prominent angels who deploy capital pledged by themselves and others in a manner akin to a GP/LP construct. Syndicates have been thought by some to be directly competitive with venture capitalists, initially Micro VCs but then perhaps larger venture firms down the line. While Naval has consistently said that this isn’t his intention, it hasn’t stopped others from speculating about the end game for Syndicates.

A recent article in Fortune Magazine got me thinking about the compare/contrast between professionally-led angel syndicates (such as those on AngelList) Continue reading "Crowdfunding for start-ups: A durable trend or a bull market phenomenon?"

Financial interaction: the next generation

I have spent over 25 years creating, processing and analyzing financial transactions. I like studying them - a lot - whether an outgrowth of my time on Wall Street helping sophisticated entities manage risks, or through IA Ventures’ investments in Simple, TransferWise, and BillGuard. Transactions are fundamentally about people interacting with other people, and are initiated at the speed of real life. But at one time or another they have to touch our byzantine, outmoded, friction-filled financial architecture, and get completed at the speed of banks. Charting the path of a transaction through the bowels of the banks and other intermediaries in our current system would require tons of boxes and arrows and round-trips that would seem absurd to the Internet-savvy crowd. This is where we are today.

Simple was founded in 2010 with the mission to offer the first truly seamless user experience to retail customers, hiding that messy underbelly of the banking world. Transparent. Low-cost. Mobile-optimized. Goal-oriented. First-rate customer service. They did a ton of things right. But in order to get up and running (relatively) quickly and with a modest amount of capital, they had to work with partners and not actually become a bank. This involved a series of known trade-offs that Josh, Shamir and the Board made with an eye towards releasing a basic product, collecting feedback, iterating on the product and creating a delightful experience for Simple users. Obtaining a bank charter was always in the long-term vision, but involves a completely different magnitude of capital, legal and consulting work - and time. Rather than innovating in a vacuum, the Simple team wanted to get a product into the wild and let users help shape the roadmap. They never could have gotten it out so quickly (and without many times more capital invested) if they had pursued the charter route.

Much has been written of Simple’s recent sale to BBVA. Separate from the impact the sale has on my firm, I personally view the acquisition as a rare example of a “win-win.” By mid-2013, Simple had grown to the point where seeking a charter was a very real consideration, but one that would have required a massive capital raise and a fundamental re-shaping of the organization due to a raft of new operational, legal and regulatory requirements. In the process of thinking about a raise, Simple received a bunch of inbound M&A interest, the most exciting of which was from BBVA. Their executive leadership had met Josh and Shamir back in 2010 and they were early believers in the Simple team and mission. By late last year, they were ready to disrupt themselves by injecting Simple’s product-focused, tech-forward DNA into their Continue reading "Financial interaction: the next generation"

IA Ventures: Reflections on 2013

2013 was a very different kind of year for IA Ventures. While the years 2010-12 were characterized by 8-10 new investments per year, in 2013 we invested in only three new companies: Data Robot; Digital Ocean (DO) and Sight Machine (SM). Digital Ocean and Sight Machine were lead-managed investments (though we partnered with OATV and Mark Jacobsen on SM), while Data Robot was done alongside the leadership of Chris Lynch and our friends at Atlas Venture. We are extremely happy with our three new partnerships, and Digital Ocean and Sight Machine represented two of the largest initial investments we’ve ever made. They were many months (and in the case of DO, years) in the making, and reflected a depth of study, analysis and relationship development that we hadn’t undertaken previously. We have been experimenting with different modes of engagement with founders and their companies, and our activity in 2013 emerged from a series of hypotheses we’ve been testing. We will continue to test and refine these hypotheses in 2014, and we already have our first accepted Term Sheet to partner with a terrific founder and team in 2014 and beyond. While the work that went into studying the company and its space was significant, it happened in a far more compressed time frame than either of our two lead-managed investments in 2013. We are continuing to test, iterate, and evolve.

While we may not have added many new companies in 2013, we deepened existing relationships with several IA Ventures portfolio companies during the year. Our companies either signed or completed eight Series B and Series C rounds in 2013, as several of our largest Fund I investments continued their scalable growth and development. Consistent with the mission we set out in 2009, we are behaving just as one would expect a “conventional” early-stage venture firm to behave: utilizing our significant reserves to support the growth of our most rapidly-growing companies through Series A, Series B and sometimes even Series C rounds. This has been our playbook and now four years after having made our first investment, we are seeing the opportunities to participate in the expansion of our most mature companies multiply. It is certainly gratifying to see founders whom we believed in before there was a business to believe in succeeding at scale, and working towards the ultimate achievement of their missions. Having a front row seat to witness the maturation of founders into full-fledged CEOs managing dozens if not hundreds of people is truly awesome. As my friend Mark Suster correctly points out, the people-side of the venture business is often the most interesting and challenging part of our roles, and when you are as financially and Continue reading "IA Ventures: Reflections on 2013"

Venture Capital and “Innovation”

Many have recently been critical of the role of the venture industry in financing “true innovation.” The narrative goes something like this: “VCs are like lemmings, flocking to the latest consumer wave (mobile chat, ride-sharing, etc.) in search of explosive short-term hits. This is not how the venture industry is supposed to operate.” This story line is further reinforced by the extreme pain felt by high-profile clean-tech investors, causing the burned to rotate away from an area of hard-science believed to be essential for the future of our planet. I mean, if VCs won’t fund these companies, then who will? Or perhaps the better question is, who should? And come to think of it, is there really only one kind of innovation, that which results in the development of a new compound or a new technology?

When it comes to breakthroughs in long time-scale, massively capital intensive areas in the hard-sciences, e.g., battery technology and solar technology writ large, I’d posit that the right source of financing for this kind of innovation is either the Government or large corporations. Why (relatively) small, private partnerships are expected to invest in generational ground-breaking science is beyond me. If you are a Limited Partner in such a fund, and the cost of commercializing one of these technologies is several hundred million dollars or more, with the possibility of the result being -0- within the stated time horizon of the fund, how could this rationally be an investment worth making? While large funds, e.g., $1-2 billion funds, have sought to underwrite these risks, even this is a paltry sum when attempting to develop a technology that is nascent and unproven relative to entrenched, well-funded and efficient incumbents. These bets have often ended in tears.

So what about VC investing in “innovation?” I’d argue that VCs have financed tremendous innovation that has either a heavy technology component or a novel business model that disrupts established players, e.g., Dropbox, Box, MongoDB, Square, Airbnb, and many others including Google, Facebook and Twitter. These companies are helping to make the world better, regardless of the fact that none of them involves cracking the atom or developing a new solar cell that changes the cost/benefit dynamics non-carbon based energy.

Does innovation need to equate to hard science? I think not. There are tremendous breakthroughs that can and have been made with a fraction of the funds required to put a man on the Moon, harness nuclear fission, or to develop transformative battery technologies to change how people interact with their devices and modes of transportation. Certain technologies can impact a broad swath of society but require the patient, Continue reading "Venture Capital and “Innovation”"

Evidence is mounting that people at the bottom are increasingly stuck without skills or pathways to…

Evidence is mounting that people at the bottom are increasingly stuck without skills or pathways to rise. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston shows that in the 1980s, 21 percent of Americans in the bottom income quintile would rise to the middle quintile or higher over a 10-year period. By 2005, that percentage had fallen by nearly a third, to 15 percent. And a 2007 Pew analysis showed that mobility is more than twice as high in Canada and most of Scandinavia than it is in the United States.

This is a major problem, and advocates of free enterprise have been too slow to recognize it. It is not enough to assume that our system blesses each of us with equal opportunities. We need to fight for the policies and culture that will reverse troubling mobility trends. We need schools that serve children’s civil rights instead of adults’ job security. We need to encourage job creation for the most marginalized and declare war on barriers to entrepreneurship at all levels, from hedge funds to hedge trimming. And we need to revive our moral appreciation for the cultural elements of success.

- From A Formula for Happiness, NYT 12/15/2013

Soft is the new Hard

I live in a world where engineering and technical talent is valued above all others, where the Holy Grail is a “coding ninja” who can crank out oodles of elegant code at a breakneck pace. These people speak a language that is distinct and only understood by those who also speak the language; to everyone else the language is akin to black magic. Myriad programs have sprung up to both preach and teach the gospel of coding, all with an eye towards empowerment. Because as we all know, knowledge is power. It has the ability to lift people up. And this is certainly true. However, I see a risk in all of this that is seldom discussed and will be upon us before we know it: knowledge without empathy.

The medical profession has finally come to this realization, but it continues to be a painful adjustment. Technical brilliance without “bedside manner” - or empathy - is a dangerous profile, as it can lead to both poor customer satisfaction and poor outcomes. Many ailments can be prevented, diagnosed and treated the old fashioned way, through conversation, listening and synthesis. Not everything requires a surgical procedure or a pill. But when it does, it is only after the other means have been exhausted. The “soft skills” of gently questioning, building trust and listening are now complementing the “hard skills” of cutting-edge medical knowledge and expertise in using the latest medications and devices. This will ultimately lead to a greater emphasis on prevention and pre-acute problem solving (once incentives become properly aligned), which is a win for all constituencies.

From an engineer’s standpoint, where technical problem-solving is the default mode, it is seductive to throw code at a “problem” without standing in a customer’s shoes and really understanding what is needed. These customers can be either internal or external: “Do we need to build this dashboard or is it better to rent someone else’s?” “Do customers really need this cool feature on the development road-map or are we doing it because it’s cool and because we can build it?” It’s great to have a vast array of tools at your disposal, but the real skill comes in determining when to use which tools or, perhaps, when one’s tools are not required in addressing a particular need. 

Whether founding a company, leading a team or simply being a team member, communication skills, managerial skills and negotiation skills are essential for long-run success. Simply looking at edge cases such as Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs and modeling oneself along these lines is neither a healthy nor a winning strategy on a risk-adjusted basis. Being a well-rounded person who can interact well with Continue reading "Soft is the new Hard"

Why should VCs hire Associates?

The question: Why do venture capital funds hire associates to source if most good deals come directly through partners?

This was a question posed on Quora and it resulted in an outpouring of thoughts that were made more lucid by putting them in writing. 

The answer:

a. They teach me stuff and expand my thinking;
b. They add another smart perspective around investment discussions;
c. They allow me to leverage my skills and let me do more of what I’m best at; and
d. They might be my future partner.

I came to venture investing with a very particular set of skills, few of which one would call “conventional” in the venture sense. I didn’t grow up in VC. I am not a serial entrepreneur. I was a fairly well-known angel investor, and that certainly exposed me to many kinds of businesses and enough data to develop a view on the elements of founder success. But I have gaping holes in my knowledge and experience that my partner Brad - and our associates Jesse and Amy - help to fill. And I am thankful for all I learn from them every day. They make me better, without question. So while they are learning and growing at their tender ages, I am doing so as well, albeit at an age somewhat less tender than theirs :-). 

I also find that my younger colleagues have a level of empathy for founders that is both refreshing and helpful, particularly because many of our founders are much closer in age to them than to me. They also dive deep into the guts of our founders’ businesses and those in which we are considering investing, giving them a level of clinical knowledge and “vibe” of companies that is hugely valuable when either deliberating over whether or not to make an investment or to make a specific recommendation to one of our companies. By giving them voice and armed with data and insights from their deep investigations, Jesse and Amy have had and will continue to have a marked impact on the decision-making at IA Ventures, and our Limited Partners should be very thankful for that.

By performing much of the detailed financial modeling and forensic deep-dive into both current and potential portfolio companies, Jesse and Amy allow me to focus on the stuff I do best: coaching founders; helping with C and VP-level recruiting; assisting with strategic business development; working to shape an optimal Board; troubleshooting when required; and helping drive fund raising. While some people are great at everything, I am not. But with Brad’s deep technical skills, mentoring of tech-driven founders and helping build their organizations and Jesse and Amy’s vast Continue reading "Why should VCs hire Associates?"

Greener pastures

Today is a day of big change in the IA Ventures family. After nearly five years working together my partner Ben has decided to return to being an operator. While I’ll miss Ben, I’m proud of his decision to follow his heart and take the long-term perspective on his career. With his experiences as a banker, as an operator and as an investor, he has built a set of skills and experiences that will serve him well in his next company.

Ben and I started working together well before IA Ventures. Ben joined me at IA Capital (my angel investment vehicle) straight out of Columbia Business School, and improved the organization and accessibility of my portfolio data. He later became an operations lead at a few of my portfolio companies, most notably the very successful search retargeting firm Magnetic. He was a boon to technical founders who needed help on the business and operations end of things, and was key for helping Magnetic (then called Domdex) between its Seed and Series A rounds. I saw his passion for working closely with founders as well as his love of business operations. And he was very good at it.

Ben’s operating career was derailed by IA Ventures. We raised two funds, built a portfolio I’m proud of, and developed the IA Ventures brand as well. It has been a very good period for the firm, our portfolio companies and our growth and development as investors. However, after deep introspection Ben decided that this was the right time in his career to return to the operating side, something he has always deeply valued, as evidenced by the in-depth way he’d connect with founders and their teams. Now it’s time for him to fully immerse himself in that world, not as an agent but as a principal. I know he’ll do great.

Regardless, Ben will always be part of the IA Ventures family and his contributions during our earliest days will not be forgotten. Thanks for everything, Ben, and all the best as you tackle new and exciting challenges.

What I’ve learned from Little League

As my friends know all too well, mine is a life immersed in baseball. Yes, there’s that venture investment stuff, but in between board meetings, team meetings, meeting new companies, staying in touch with my networks and breaking down the barriers to data entrepreneurship at Michigan and Columbia there is baseball. Both my kids are intense baseball players. My wife is a Little League executive (and holds a Ph.D in psychology, which helps) and division coordinator. And I am a long-time manager and coach of teams with kids ranging from ages 7-17, from Junior Minors all the way to Seniors. It has almost become a third career of mine (Wall Street, venture capital, baseball coach). Along the way I have learned a ton about strategy, human psychology - and life.

Newly-minted baseball teams and start-ups have a tremendous amount in common. Every Spring there is a Little League draft and the managers sit around and pick their teams, not dissimilar from kicking off a new start-up. Those of us who have been around Little League a long time know most of the kids, their playing histories, their personalities and their families. But this anecdotal knowledge is augmented with objective data that are generated in a common League-wide tryout the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. Players are scored on their batting, fielding, pitching and catching (if they pitch and catch), and there are various sub-categories in each of these areas. Think of these scores as their resumes and conversations with prior coaches as being reference checks. Drafting players, like hiring team members, is an inexact science but the goal is to get as much quantitative and qualitative data as possible to make the most informed decision you can. Assuming all the mangers work reasonably hard in the data collection process, there is a somewhat common view of how players rank by position based upon skill. But somehow, people’s draft boards look very different post facto. The reason: managers draft for different things.

Year after year, in my experience newer managers tend to underperform more experienced managers. Why is this? My hypothesis is that the newer managers tend to draft based on the theory of “best athlete available that meets my position requirements,” while the old timers tend to draft with a particular team construction in mind. This means taking into account factors such as “Is the kid a team player? Does the player show up for practice on time? Are they humble and do they work hard? Are their parents over-involved and stressing out the kid (and the coaches and other team members in the process)? Is the player a potential leader? Has the player previously been on teams with Continue reading "What I’ve learned from Little League"

What I’ve learned from Little League

As my friends know all too well, mine is a life immersed in baseball. Yes, there’s that venture investment stuff, but in between board meetings, team meetings, meeting new companies, staying in touch with my networks and breaking down the barriers to data entrepreneurship at Michigan and Columbia there is baseball. Both my kids are intense baseball players. My wife is a Little League executive (and holds a Ph.D in psychology, which helps) and division coordinator. And I am a long-time manager and coach of teams with kids ranging from ages 7-17, from Junior Minors all the way to Seniors. It has almost become a third career of mine (Wall Street, venture capital, baseball coach). Along the way I have learned a ton about strategy, human psychology - and life.

Newly-minted baseball teams and start-ups have a tremendous amount in common. Every Spring there is a Little League draft Continue reading "What I’ve learned from Little League"

Breaking through

I spend a bunch of time speaking at events, guest lecturing at friends’ classes and mentoring young people. It is something I feel passionately about and enjoy a great deal. I always try to be blunt, honest and unambiguous with my input, hoping that at least some of the take-aways will be employed by those hearing my words. But I continue to be surprised by the number of common mistakes made by start-up founders, and wanted to provide a short list of some of my hot buttons.

Post-presentation behavior: When I (or someone like me, be they an investor, a well-know start-up founder, etc.) speak at a conference, it is commonplace for a group of people to line up to say hi and chat for a minute. All good. Except what often happens is that a (most often young) founder will try to pitch me their idea. I hate this and it generally leaves a bad taste in my mouth. There are too many people and too little time for this to be successful. You do not have my undivided attention. However, the goal should be to be brief, on point and to either say something smart or ask a good question that relates to discussion. This way, you can send me an email at roger@iaventures.com and you might have seeded a dialogue. But if you force a pitch on me at this moment, forget it.

Getting in touch with a VC: The number of blind emails we get with a pitch and a meeting request is extreme. This exercise is a complete waste of time as far as I’m concerned. The signal/noise ratio is simply too high to do all the calls and take all the meetings people want. But there is one way people short-circuit a meaningful part of the deal funnel - getting referred into us by a trusted person. This person can be another investor with whom we’re close and done business. It can be one of our founders. The common thread is someone whom we trust and whose judgement we value. While we don’t take every meeting requested from referrals, the likelihood of getting a close look is infinitely higher than sending in your stuff and hoping that a meeting will take place. So use that entrepreneurial intensity, passion and ingenuity to network to someone who knows me or one of my colleagues and impress them sufficiently such that they’re comfortable making the introduction.

Networking: Even with all that has been written about the importance of networking, I see way too many aspiring entrepreneurs looking for a silver bullet for how to meet domain relevant people for collaboration, recruitment and Continue reading "Breaking through"